Giants

Giants have decision to make after Samardzija's shoulder acts up again

Giants have decision to make after Samardzija's shoulder acts up again

SAN FRANCISCO — Before the start of this three-game series, manager Bruce Bochy was asked whether he was ready to announce his second half rotation. Bochy was not, noting that he wanted to get through these three games. After the second game against the A’s, a 4-3 loss, he admitted that there’s now a discussion that needs to be had before any decisions are made public. 

Jeff Samardzija’s second start back from the disabled list was a step backwards. The right-hander admitted that he had trouble keeping his pitching shoulder loose, an issue that recently put him on the disabled list for 35 games. After that long layoff, Samardzija insisted he felt great. Clearly he does not, and the Giants have to decide when he’ll make his next start, or if he even will. 

“We’ll talk about it. We’ll talk about what we think is best,” Bochy said. “I’ll talk to Jeff on how he felt and how he feels tomorrow. He wants to be out there, but you can tell he was a little off tonight.”

Samardzija backed that point, answering a question about his health by talking about how much fun he’s having with this team and how he wants to contribute. But the Giants do not have much margin for error, and the first six innings Saturday seemed to indicate an intriguing choice moving forward. 

Samardzija gave up two runs on three hits and two walks in four innings, and only an impressive Steven Duggar catch in the gap kept it from being worse. Derek Holland, the man waiting in the wings, struck out the first five hitters he faced while throwing two scoreless innings of relief. 

Samardzija threw just 29 of 55 pitches for strikes and got three swings-and-misses. Holland got eight in much more limited time, throwing 19 of 26 pitches for strikes. Samardzija is known as the flamethrower, but his fastball maxed out at just 92.5 mph and he averaged around 90 mph with the pitch, which is 94-95 when most effective. Holland threw his fastest pitch of the season, a 94.7 mph fastball to Matt Olson, and averaged 93.3 mph with his heater. 

The timing lines up well for the Giants if they're ready to make a change. They have four days off, then three in Oakland, where Samardzija certainly would not be asked to pitch. After that, there’s an off day. If the Giants want to get creative or give Samardzija an extended breather, now is the time. Given his diminished velocity and lack of command, it’s apparent something needs to be done. 

“It’s a process right now,” Samardzija said. “(The shoulder) didn’t warm up quite the way we wanted it to. You go out there and do what you can do with what you’ve got. I’m not making excuses.”

Samardzija did keep the Giants in the game, and they had a shot even in the ninth. Blake Treinen, whose sinker is as nasty as it gets, walked a pair with two outs, but Brandon Crawford struck out. The inning was missing one component. Brandon Belt would have been due up second, but he was ejected after the fourth for arguing a check-swing call. Belt had been rung up by third base umpire Greg Gibson in the bottom of the inning on a questionable call. He argued as he took his position in the top of the fifth. Bochy said he would talk to Belt. 

“At some point, you’ve got to let it go,” he said. “Once he went out there and started arguing again, you’re going to get thrown out. That can’t happen in a game like this.”

Should Giants be finding more starts for slugging Pablo Sandoval?

Should Giants be finding more starts for slugging Pablo Sandoval?

SAN FRANCISCO -- Pablo Sandoval took fly balls in left field during the spring. He caught a bullpen session. A year after starting at second base, he tried to keep that option open, too. 

The Giants' switch-hitter has embraced versatility over the last year, or tried to, in order to get extra time on the field, but thus far his role has been as traditional as it gets. He has made two starts at third base and one at first, and in both games of this series, he was the designated hitter. Otherwise, Sandoval has 17 appearances off the bench. 

That's the role that was expected as the Giants broke camp, but Sandoval has put his own twist on things: He has been more dangerous than any Giants hitter through a month, making a strong case that he should be more of a fixture for one of the worst lineups in the majors. 

"There's no real good way to do it except give Longo the occasional day off," manager Bruce Bochy said before Wednesday's 4-0 win over the Blue Jays. "The thing that I like about Pablo is he's able to sit and maintain his swing and go up there and give you a good at-bat, so whether it's Belt or Longo taking a day, Pablo will start occasionally. If you're talking on a daily basis, it's just hard to do."

Perhaps the Giants need to find a way, though. 

Sandoval's homer Wednesday, his second in two games in Toronto, left the bat at 112 mph (he later had an out at 111 mph). It was the hardest-hit ball of the season by a Giant, and by the end of the day Sandoval had a .333 average and 1.027 OPS. He would easily lead the team in OPS if he qualified, and he currently leads the Giants in doubles (7) despite starting just five games. 

The problem is that Sandoval can't really be anything but an emergency option at any position but first and third. First baseman Brandon Belt is the team's best hitter overall and locked into the lineup, although perhaps the Giants will give him more time in left to clear some playing time. The staff has shown no inclination to give Sandoval more time at third, where Evan Longoria has a .655 OPS and three homers. 

Sandoval enjoyed two days as a starter in Toronto, picking up four hits. But it'll be back to the pinch-hitting role when the Giants return home Friday, and it's a role nobody is doing better right now. Sandoval leads the National League with six pinch-hits, five of which have been doubles. He has scored three runs and driven in two as a pinch-hitter, repeatedly kickstarting late-game rallies. 

[RELATED: Belt not a fan of robot umpires despite frustrations]

"A lot of Pablo's hits are coming off the bench, too, so that works," Bochy said. "It's nice to have a batter sitting on the bench and when you need a big hit, he's ready to go. A lot of those at-bats come with men on base and later in the game, and I've got a pretty nice weapon there."

Giants prospect Heliot Ramos reflects on recent hot streak with San Jose

Giants prospect Heliot Ramos reflects on recent hot streak with San Jose

Everything felt right. There wasn’t anything off with his swing, he wasn’t pressing mentally, and yet, he only had one hit in his first 17 at-bats. 

All it took was a home run on April 9 to get Heliot Ramos, the Giants’ No. 2 prospect, back on track. Since then, he's hitting .349 (15-for-43) with five home runs.

“I knew that I was doing everything right,” Ramos said on Tuesday’s Inside The San Jose Giants Podcast. “In my mind, everything was right. My confidence was good. My swing was good. I just needed the ball to get down. I just keep on swinging.” 

As he kept swinging, hits started to show up in the scorebook. What has been just as important, however, has been him not swinging. 

Ramos registered just 35 walks last season as a member of the Augusta GreenJackets and finished his first full season in the minor leagues with a lowly .313 on-base percentage. He worked all offseason tracking pitches longer and laying off breaking balls in the dirt while playing Winter Ball, and it has paid off big time. 

Through 18 games in High-A with the San Jose Giants, Ramos already has 14 walks and his on-base percentage is over 100 points higher than last season (.418).

“I can see the ball well right now,” Ramos said. “I feel good. I’ve been feeling good. I learned a lot from last year. I hope this is something that can keep going good for me.” 

Not only has Ramos shown improved patience at the plate, but the center fielder is also driving the ball all over the yard. He’s batting .262 with a .991 OPS, and 11 of his 16 hits have gone for extra bases. Despite being the fifth-youngest player in the California League at 19 years old, he’s second in home runs (5), fifth in slugging percentage (.574), fifth in on-base percentage, fourth in walks, and third in OPS. 

San Jose was supposed to be a preview of what’s to come for years in San Francisco this season with the duo of Ramos and top prospect Joey Bart. A fractured hand for Bart has derailed those plans, but it hasn’t slowed down the younger of the two. 

Ramos no longer has the protection of Bart hitting right behind him. The teenager is seeing more off-speed pitches and is now the primary threat offensively to opposing teams. And yet, he’s flourished at the plate. 

[RELATED: Heliot Ramos' advancement 'really encouraging to see']

Since Bart broke his hand on April 15, Ramos has gone 8-for-26 (.308) with two home runs, two doubles, three RBI, and four runs scored. He’s growing every game as a player, both mentally and in the box score, and it could all be thanks to a disappointing season where he hit .245 with 136 strikeouts in 124 games last year. 

“Stay positive,” Ramos said when asked what he learned from last season. “That was the main thing I learned. Stay positive and never give up. Keep working hard and everything’s going to be okay.”